TRANSPARENCY INTERNATIONAL VANUATU (TIV) is appealing to the authorities responsible in the government to strengthen the Public Accounts Committee (PAC). Since June of this year the Public Accounts Committee has been unable to perform its functions because the government has not appointed its members despite receiving two notices from the Standing Committees Secretary.
“We see that the government has taken steps by improving transparency and accountability, and this is shown through the incredible work that is being done to making it legally easier for citizen’s to access information through the right to information policy (RTI) and the legislation which are still in draft” acknowledged Dr. Tokon, the Chairman of Transparency International Vanuatu.
However, with regards to the Public Accounts Committee, Transparency International Vanuatu followed closely the workings of the PAC between April and May, and it was expected that further PAC hearings would be held after July.
“Currently, the PAC has not been operational since June then it will of course raise a lot of questions regarding government spending’s,” Dr. Tokon further stated that “We would like to appeal to the government to empower the PAC so that it can be able to continue to perform its duties.”
“The significance of having, at all times, an operational Public Accounts Committee is because it is the only constituted parliamentary committee that is responsible for overseeing government expenditures to ensure they are effective and honest” TIV Chairman Dr. Willie Tokon said.
The significance of having a functional instrument in place was highlighted when the Parliamentary Public Accounts Committee (PAC) summoned the thirty-plus government statutory bodies in April of this year and it was discovered that 50% of them were operating without a qualified accountant. Furthermore, the PAC also identified that the leaders of 71% statutory bodies were not aware of their own acts while a staggering 83% admitted that they were not aware of the Expenditure Review & Audit Act.
Below are the findings by the PAC in April:
- Institutions do not comply with the Public Finance and Economic Management (PFEM) ACT, (17) 1.
- Authorities supervising the institutions do not know about the PFEM ACT and own ACTs.
- Many of these institutions manage to pay their salaries and benefits however failed to pay the government dividends.
- Board members do not know how to administer their institutions.
- There is no accountant hired in some of these institutions, and they have not recruited professional accountants to do professional duties.
- The Heads of Institutions do not worry about breaking the law.
- Money allocated and collected are State Money/ Public Fund – Part 10, subsection 43 (1).
- The Public Accounts Committee used the Police on several cases to summon people, however did not prosecute anyone.
The PAC, at that time, was praised for revealing to the public major operational failures by the statutory bodies, confirming the fact that the PAC has a very important role to play where public funds are concerned. “Therefore, the government needs to empower and promote the work of the PAC,” Dr. Tokon said.
In April the PAC agreed on 10 recommendations to be delivered to the government as advice:
- Relook at the government state owned enterprises – if not paying any dividends then government must reconsider decisions.
- Public Service to enforce the law of the Public Service:
a) When recruiting.
b) When they (Public Servants) do not do their jobs.
- Ask the Public Service to enforce cap 246 (section 33 on allowances) – fees for official services when Director Generals and Directors are sitting as board members and receiving allowances.
- VNPF – re-establish its subsidy companies (Limited Companies): Members Financial Services Limited (MFSL), Ranch de Bouffa Ltd, and VNBR with regards to their reporting requirements.
- Government Remuneration Tribunal – check all salary scale across the board.
- NISCOL – restructure before extending the concessional agreement.
- Amend the Expenditure Review and Audit Act to enable the PAC and AG to punish to noncompliance to PFEM Act.
- Ask VNPF to stop investing for the time being.
- Ask the government to establish the Public Accounts Office – budget of VT5, 000,000.
- Increase PAC budget: VT3, 000, 000 x 3 Hearings/year = VT 9, 000, 000.
MP Ralph Regenvanu is currently the new PAC Chairman, taking over from MP Marcelino Pipite who was elected as the Speaker of Parliament.